European Cinema Luxor 2012
by Sherif Awad
Despite all the shocking news we hear every day about Egypt, its new president, it former SCAF and Tahrir Square, life still goes on at least in film festivals’ community with the launch of the first edition of the Luxor Egyptian and European Film Festival (LEEFF) from 17 to 22 September, 2012). Organized by Noon Foundation for Culture and Arts (NOONCA), the festival’s main purpose is to foster the high quality films and by Egyptian and European filmmakers in Upper Egypt. LEEFF’s team include Magda Wassef (president), filmmaker Mohamed El-Kaliouby, filmmaker Daoud Abdel Sayed, film critic Youssef Cherif Rizkallah, Salma El-Shamaa and Gamal Zayda.
Despite the absence of cinema screens in Luxor, the festival will make use of the beautiful and historical Luxor temples for its opening and closing ceremonies in addition to the Congress Hall Cultural Palace and Luxor Library for the screenings of its official programs that include a feature competition, a short competition and special tribute. The honorary guest country of the first edition is the United Kingdom as the opening film and contemporary British cinema will highlight the festival’s days. Furthermore, projections will be organized on the western bank of the Nile in Luxor as well as in the cities of Esna and Armant, via projection caravans.
The Festival will present more than 50 films and will receive around a hundred guests from Europe and Egypt, among who numerous directors, actors, professionals as well as representatives of the most important Egyptian and European media.
Luxor Festival will have an open air ceremony in the Luxor temple where Salmon Fishing in the Yemen Lasse Hallstorm will be screened. It stars Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Egyptian star Amr Waked who plays Muhammed, an eccentric Arab Sheikh whose latest proposition involves paying fifty million pounds to fully stock a Yemeni river with salmon, and thus engender sport fishing in the desert region. To better gauge the feasibility of this wild plan, Harriet contacts Dr. Alfred, a Scottish scientist who specializes in establishing fisheries. Jones shoots the plan down instantly, but soon Patricia Maxwell the press secretary to the British prime minister sees it as the ideal way to promote better international relations between England and the Middle East, especially in light of the torrent of bad news concerning terrorism and general unrest in the Arabic countries. The film is based on the best-selling novel by Paul Torday.
The first edition will give tribute to two Egyptian stars. Egyptian contemporary comedian Ahmed Helmy for his career that featured mostly comic commentary on Egyptian society, and also to legendary icon Omar Sharif who will attend the screening of his first film ever Siraa Fil-Wadi (Struggle in the Valley) that was shot in Luxor back in 1954 by Youssef Chahine.
Feature Competition include ten films, one Egyptian and nine Europeans , mostly about social and political conflicts in the past and present days; The Egyptian film After the Battle by Yousry Nasrallah, will receive its regional premiere after its Cannes Competition screening. It stars Bassem Samra as Mahmoud who was one of the horsemen coerced by lowly henchmen of Mubarak's regime into carrying out attacks on protesters in Tahrir Square on February 2, 2011, the infamous day known as Battle of the Camels. He has since lost his job. Humiliated and ostracized, he lives near the Pyramids with his wife and sons. After he loses everything, he meets Reem, a secular Egyptian divorcee who works in advertising while being is a fervent revolutionary who lives in a wealthy Cairo neighborhood. Theirs is the encounter of two people, but also of two different worlds.
The European selection in long competition will include: The German drama Barbara by Christian Petzold, starring Nina Hoss as the title character, a doctor living in Eastern Germany of the 1980s who considers leaving the country with her boyfriend from the West; The Portuguese drama Journey to Portugal by Sergio Trefaut where Maria de Medeiros plays an Eastern European woman who is the detained and interrogated by the immigration police; The Estonian drama Graveyard Keeper's Daughter by Katrin Laur who focuses on Lucia, an eight years-old young girl, who is lives in a small town with her father, a graveyard keeper. The Spanish film by Pedro Pérez Rosado Wilaya stars Aziza Brahim, Fatima who, after her mother passes away, returns to her homeland, which is refugee camps around Tindouf in southwestern Algeria, on the border with the former Spanish Sahara. Arriving there, Fatima faces dilemma: either to stay alongside her roots are or to immediately return to the North?; The Romanian drama The Bear by Dan Chisu, takes place at a Bucharest circus, where the new manager is trying to solve its major financial issues by selling to German hunters the only bear that is old and on the verge of dying.
The jury of the feature competition will be headed by Egyptian filmmaker Samir Seif, infamous for his action films since the 1970s until now. He will be joined by Croatian filmmaker Branko Schmidt, French producer Jacques Bidou, German journalist Barbara Lorey and Portuguese filmmaker Teresa Villaverde.
The short competition includes more than forty film from Egypt and Europe. Its jury includes: Russian film critic Dr. Anatoly S. Shakhov, French film historian Jacques Kermabon and Egyptian screenwriter Mariam Naoum.